With our 10th birthday celebration around the corner, we couldn’t think of anyone better to catch up with than one of our founding co-chair: Katrina-Caroll Foster (with a few words from her co-chair Louise Kozier)! Find out how YES! came to be from its inception in 2008, why it was so worth it, and be inspired by the power of women supporting women.
First things, first! We have to ask, where did the idea for YES! Vancouver come from?
The first YES! chapter was founded in New York about 12 years ago. Its roots were in the fashion world. A group of women would host get togethers in ateliers, pop-ups and boutiques around New York, showcasing their designs, supporting local entrepreneurs, and raising funds for Dress For Success NYC.
Shortly after Louise and I joined the board of Dress for Success BC, a board member asked if we wanted to create the first YES! chapter in Canada – and I believe the second in North America. We jumped at the chance.
But, we wanted to put our own spin on it. Ten years ago, Louise and I felt Vancouver was missing a vibrant networking group for young women in the workplace. One that wasn’t tied to a specific professional designation. We wanted YES! Vancouver to be a supportive, dynamic community of young female professionals, who, through their events and activities could support the amazing work of Dress for Success. It created a pipeline of revenues and volunteers for Dress For Success Vancouver (DFS), and started to build a fun community of young women professionals.
We wanted YES! Vancouver to be a supportive, dynamic community of young female professionals, who, through their events and activities could support the amazing work of Dress for Success.
Supporting Dress for Success Vancouver is a big reason people support us. What makes Dress for Success Vancouver near and dear to your heart?
I remember a guest DFS speaker 10 years ago. She silenced a very loud and laughing room of 200 plus women at Birks when she said “I love paying taxes”. She went on to explain that through a series of difficult circumstances, she’d spent years unemployed, with no income, and perhaps even less pride. With the support of the team and volunteers of DFS, and her own perseverance, she got a job. She started earning an income. She then started paying taxes. And finally, she started saving for her daughter’s education. It was such a moment. She beamed with pride and accomplishment. And it’s why DFS is just so special.
By providing women the tools, knowledge, attire and support they need to get into (or back into) the workforce, DFS is helping to grow their economic independence.
We’ll say it – 10 years is a big deal. While we’re sure there are so many stand-out moments, what would be your favourite memory in your time with YES! Vancouver?
It has to be the launch event, 10 years ago! Looking around a room of over 300 women, hosted at Holt Renfrew, with the head of Theory as our guest speaker and emcee of the fashion show, I was so excited to see YES! Vancouver come to life. And then – about a year later – we learned our membership and revenues had surpassed any chapter in North America! Go Vancouver!
Taking a passion project idea and building it into a sustainable organization doesn’t happen overnight. What advice would you give to those dreamers out there looking to create something BIG?
It takes work (whew!), and it takes a team. From the board of DFS, the amazing Val Braacx, to my co-conspirator Louise, to the amazing YES! Vancouver volunteers, we all pushed to bring this to life. What ultimately became most gratifying for me, was when Louise and I stepped down as the Chairs, and Katie Schaeffers and Sarah Ueland stepped up as the new chairs, bringing new vitality and ideas. The organization had become viable on its own accord. Katie, Sarah and their amazing volunteers, and every subsequent, chair, lead, or volunteers have built on the foundation of this organization, making it their own, and making it better.
Women supporting women is another big piece of YES! Vancouver and why we do what we do. What is one piece of advice you would give women to help lift themselves up and support each other?
Look for ways to champion each other. Make connections. Accept invitations. Ask for introductions. Ask for help. Find ways to help. Don’t wait – get in there!
A little bit more about Katrina and Louise, and where they are now:
As founder and principal of Kollectively, Katrina has worked with the founders and leadership teams of over 30 startups, early-growth companies, and technology associations to develop results-driven business, brand and marketing strategies. An entrepreneur at heart, Katrina also co-founded, raised capital for, and sold an e-commerce startup. Katrina is currently a Subject Matter Expert for Wavefront, Canada’s Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research in wireless.
Katrina champions entrepreneurs as a mentor, advisor and speaker for organizations like Futurpreneur, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and The Next Big Thing. In 2007 she co-founded YES! Vancouver (Young Executives of Success), a pioneering organization that offers mentorship and networking to young professional women, as well as raising vital funds to support Dress for Success Vancouver. She sits on the board of directors of Make a Wish Foundation. Recently, Katrina launchd The Raise Collective with 4 other founders to help change the ratio of women in early-stage investing and to support the capital raising efforts of female founders. Katrina is also the mum to a very curious and chatty 3 year old girl.
Louise is a partner at Longview Communications, helps run an organic vineyard on Naramata Bench and is a mum to two young boys.
Louise started her career in London and New York before spending ten years in Vancouver helping to build Longview into one of Canada’s preeminent strategic communications firms. While in Vancouver Louise served on the Board of Dress for Success and co-founded YES Vancouver with Katrina Carroll-Foster.
Today Louise continues to recreate her story and redefine traditional approaches to work, motherhood and life…. She advises some of Canada’s leading companies on corporate and financial communications issues from her Penticton base, takes care of her boys, helps harvest the grapes that turn into the delicious Roche Wines and is poised to immerse herself in yoga teacher training.
Louise continues to be actively involved in the community and a strong believer in the power of women helping women.